How far will Cabral’s Military Police go?

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(after molotov was thrown, likely by undercover police, aka “P2”)

“The cravings of Sergio Cabral, governor of Rio de Janeiro, of making his successor in the State government and contemplating that part of the population that applauds BOPE when they gun-down drug traffickers in Complexo do Alemão is taking Rio de Janeiro along a dangerous road. Cabral’s recent acts and declarations have revealed a despotic facet of the governor and, apparently, serve as a licence for the Military Police to expand the authoritarianism they employ in the favelas to the wealthiest neighborhoods of the Fluminense capital.

After last week’s riot in Leblon, the most expensive per square meter in Brazil, Cabral diagnosed the vandalism problem in Rio de Janeiro in the same way as Arab dictators — placing the blame on “international organizations”. As it happens in the Middle East, attributing the violence to the foreigner isn’t a simple diagnostic error. It’s a device to exempt their own government from any responsibility for what’s occurring.

In the same speech, given last Friday, Cabral promised an “answer to society”. The answer came via the Special Commission of Investigation of Acts of Vandalism in Public Manifestations (CEIV, in Portuguese). The so-called CEIV was created on the 19th of July, by way of the decree 44.302, published in the Diário Oficial of the State on Monday, the 22nd. The text that the commission created (here in its entirety, in PDF) has alarming authoritarian contours (not to mention it’s illegal, PT).

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In Article 3, Cabral determines that all “solicitations and determinations of the CEIV” have “absolute priority” above any other request sent to public or private bodies. In a single paragraph, Cabral obligates telephone companies and ISPs to follow requests by the CEIV in a “maximum timeframe of 24 hours”. It’s not clear if questions like the Pope’s security or a problem in a hospital, for example, will be put to the side in detriment of combating vandalism, or if the telephone/Internet companies have the right to appeal the CEIV’s orders.

More worrying is Article 2 of the commission’s creation. According to the decree, the CEIV can “take all actions necessary to carry out the investigation of acts of vandalism, and may request information, conduct investigations and perform any acts necessary to the conduct of criminal proceedings for the purpose of punishing wrongful acts under public demonstrations.” This text, as Bernardo Santoro on his blog Instituto Liberal reminded us, opens it up to anything, through not being clear on what “all necessary actions” means. Can the CEIV declare prison sentences, do illegal wiretapping and torture suspects, for example?

In the best of hypothesis, the text is a disaster provoked by haste and by the lack of knowledge of those who wrote it. In the worst, it’s a reflection of the climate, inflated by the government of Rio, of “anything goes against vandalism”.

Reflections of the climate have been observed. On Friday, the newspaper O Globo published an interview with the sociologist Paulo Baía, in which he commented on the riot in Leblon. “The police saw crime occurring and didn’t act. The message of the police was the following: now I’m going to give a smack-down on everyone”, said Baía. On that very Friday, the sociologist suffered a lightning kidnapping in the Aterro do Flamengo. “In the car, they passed along the message and nothing else. They said I shouldn’t give any other interviews like todays at O Globo and to not say anything else about the Military Police, because, if I did, it would be the last interview I’d give in my life”, said Baía.” – Carta Capital (PT, more here)